- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 15, 2015

LANDOVER — Perry Riley reached back, and with his left hand, he erased the memories that lingered from a loss the week earlier.

Facing first-and-10 from the Washington Redskins’ 33-yard line with 5:45 remaining, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees intended to find tight end Ben Watson down the left sideline with a pass that could have taken him into the end zone. Instead, Riley broke up the play, tipping the ball with his left hand at the eight-yard line before securing it under his arm as he fell to the ground.

It was the second interception of the day for the Redskins, following one by free safety Dashon Goldson roughly nine minutes earlier. Goldson returned that interception for a touchdown, cementing a performance for a defense that, early on, appeared to be headed for a long afternoon.

“Kind of what our Achilles’ heel was we missed a couple tackles,” Goldson said, following the Redskins’ 47-14 victory. “We missed a tackle to cause a big run. … We just started playing sound football after that. We limited our missed tackles. We were on point with our game plan, and we just stuck to it.”

The Redskins had allowed 372 yards a game, the 12th-most in the league, but held the Saints to 350 yards on Sunday. Much changed after a 60-yard touchdown reception by New Orleans wide receiver Brandin Cooks with 10:52 remaining in the second quarter: The Saints had gained 160 yards once Cooks crossed the goal line, an average of 14.6 yards per play, but were held to 190 yards, or 4.3 yards per play, after the touchdown.



Washington also stopped the Saints on seven of 11 third-down attempts, six of which occurred after the touchdown, and both fourth-down tries, including a fourth-and-1 that ended New Orleans’ first possession of the second half.

Boosting the early production was not only the touchdown pass, but also a 70-yard gain by running back Mark Ingram on New Orleans’ third play from scrimmage — one in which Ingram shed a tackle by Goldson, then took off down the right sideline before being forced out of bounds at the Redskins’ five-yard line by cornerback Will Blackmon.

“We got out of a couple of gaps, and we were soft on some of the coverages,” Blackmon said. “At the end of the day, football is about blocking and tackling. If you can do those things really well, I think you have a good chance, and I think we came out in the second half and on both sides of the ball, we were able to do that.”

Brees, who entered having thrown for more than 300 yards in seven of nine games, was held to 209 yards on Sunday. The Redskins have yet to allow a quarterback to surpass the 300-yard mark this season — and that includes the New England Patriots’ Tom Brady, who threw for 299 yards a week ago.

That, Blackmon said, gave the defense confidence that Brees wouldn’t be able to bring his team back in the second half, despite the Redskins holding just a two-possession lead, 27-14, at halftime. Washington didn’t truly pull away until 11 seconds remained in the third quarter, when it increased its lead to 37-14; Goldson’s interception followed on the Saints’ next series, and on the subsequent drive, New Orleans failed to convert a fourth-and-2 from its own 22-yard line.

To keep New Orleans’ passing attack off balance, the Redskins incorporated a variety of disguises and changed their coverages late — moves that, on occasion, had players hurrying from one location to another just before the snap. Brees said the Saints were prepared for the Redskins’ wrinkles, but one they couldn’t be ready for was the return of cornerback DeAngelo Hall, who took the field for the first time since Week 3 but did so as a safety.

“Any time you can give a guy like Drew Brees multiple disguises and multiple things thrown at him, you know, it makes it a little difficult,” Hall said. “It don’t matter who was out there.”

Riley struggled against the Patriots — particularly in coverage, with an 18-yard touchdown reception by running back Brandon Bolden unfolding after Brady called a timeout specifically because he noticed the inside linebacker would not be able to stop the play.

Sunday was different. The early lead meant nothing to the Saints, but the Redskins’ task will be to make sure the 33 unanswered points do.

“Nobody got down on each other,” Riley said. “We kept each other in high spirits. ‘OK, you’ll make it next time. We know it.’ Everybody did a good job of making that play next time when it came, and we finished the game up.”

• Zac Boyer can be reached at zboyer@washingtontimes.com.

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